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Vol. LXXXVIII, No. 3-4

July-October, 1998

BEYOND PROOFTEXTING: APPROACHES TO THE QUINAN IN SOME EARLY ARABIC CHRISTIAN APOLOGIES Introduction: God's self-veiling between Gregory of Nyssa and al-Shr (42):51
One of the oldest Arabic Christian theological texts available to us in more than fragmentary form is an anonymous eighth-century Melkite, apology preserved in a parchment manuscript of the Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai, S/na/ar. 154 (ff. 99r-139v). Margaret Dunlop Gibson, the text's first editor, entitled it Ff tatA/ftA A/AlA aAiraA/d or "On the Triune Nature of God''1misleading titles, the reader quickly learns, because after a very few pages about the Trinity the treatise turns to matters of soteriology and Christology. It is to TatA/ftA 's soteriological chapter 2 that we first turn. There we learn how, as a result of the Fall, Satan gained ascendancy over Adam and his progeny. God in his mercy sent prophets and apostles, but they were unable to prise humanity from Satan's grasp. Finally, in order to reverse the effects of the Fall and to save humankind from Satan's sovereignty in the most fitting way, God sent his Word who "put on this weak, defeated humanity from Mary the Good, whom God chose 'above the women of the worlds,' and veiled A/mse/f through her." 3 The striking metaphor of "self-veiling" rendered by the Arabic word /Atajaba, related to the noun A//ab or "veil" is, of course, not new with the eighth-century Arabic apology. The student of Greek soteriological literature will instantly be reminded of the Catechetical Orations of Gre1 Margaret Dunlop Gibson, ed. and trans.. "An Arabic Version of the Acts of the Apostles and the Seven Catholic Epistles, from an Eighth or Ninth Century MS in the Convent of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, with a Treatise "On the Triune Nature of God'.'' Stud/a S/na//ca 7 (London: C.J. Clay and Sons. 1899). 74*-107* (where the asterisk indicates the separate pagination of the Arabic text). Samir Khalil Samir is preparing a new edition of the text for publication, and has discussed it in two important articles: Samir Khalil Samir. "Une apologie arabe du christianisme d'poque umayyade?" Paro/c de /'Or/e// \6 (1990-91): 85-106. and idem. "The Earliest Arab Apology for Christianity." in Samir Khalil Samir and Jrgen S. Nielsen, eds.. Chris/an Arabic Apo/oge/cs during he Alriasid Periikt / ,~JOd*5S> (Leiden. New York. Kln: E.J. Brill, 1994). 57-114. The present writer has argued that the work should be dated to A.D. 788: Mark N. Swanson. "Some Considerations for the Dating of / / ahh'h A//ah a/uh/diSinai ar. 154) and a/Cc/ wagilh a/-ma/i (London. British Library or. 4950)." /'aro/e de /'Orie/?\% (1993): 115-41. 2 Gibson. Arabic Version. 78*-84*. 3 Ibid.. 83*.




gory of Nyssa, who taught that, in Christ, God's "divinity was hidden by the veil tproka/ymma) o our nature" so that he might accomplish his stratagem against the Devil. 4 We might note in passing that it is no surprise that much of the vocabulary and imagery of the early Arabic Melkite theological literature should derive from Greek sources. After all, the greatest of the eighth-century Melkite theologians was John of Damascus. 5 However, TatA/fiA '^description of the Virgin Mary as the one "whom God chose above the women of the worlds" 6 is not taken from Gregory or the Damascene, but is rather a direct citation of the Qur ; an. It is there, in Srat /~c/mran (3):42, that the story of the Annunciation begins with the words: "O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you, and cAoscn you above tAc women of/Ac wor/c/s."7 The Christian author needs no clumsy citation formula or footnote to let the reader know that he is citing the Qur^n; many with ears to hear will hear. For them, four or five carefully chosen words in TatA/ftA axe sufficient to bring the Biblical and the Quranic stories of the Annunciation into sympathetic resonance. This example alerts us to the fact that the early Arabic Christian literature is not mere/ya. literature of translation, in close relationship to Greek and Syriac exemplars; it is a/so a literature in some intertextual relationship with the Qur'n, confessed by Muslims to have been revealed by God "in a clear Arabic speech." 8 Readers of Arabic Christian texts are warned to watch out for possible Qur'anic allusions, to listen for Quranic echoes9or at least, should their knowledge of the Qur'n be deficient, to keep a Qur*n concordance at hand. Thus alerted, let us return to the "self-veiling" metaphor. Granted that the word ihtajaba may be explained on the basis of Greek antecedents, is it possible that it might also bear whispers from the text's Quranic subtext? We reach for the concordance, 10 where we learn that the eighth Arabic verbal form /Atajaba does not occur in the Qur'n. However, the word

4 Or. caech. xxiv, 4, xxvi, 1. See Louis Mridier. ed. and trans., Grgoire c/e Abysse: Discours cachc//que (Paris: Alphonse Picard et fils, 1908). 114-15. 118-21. 5 On the arabization of Melkite literary production, see the essays collected in Sidney H. Griffith, Arabic Chr/s/an/y in he Moniserics ot'Ar/nh-Cenu/y /'aterine (Aldershot. Hampshire Brookfield. VT: Variorum. 1992). 6 a//a/saaba /tabu a/a //// / / a/am ina. Gibson. A ab/e liMon 83*. 7 Italics added. 8 ai-Shifara' (26): 192-95. The English translation is from Kenneth Cragg. /leading* in he Qur'n (London: Collins, 1988). 188. 9 I have learned to speak of intertextual "echoes" from Richard B. Hays, "chocs o Scripture in he Leers of faut tw Haven London: Yale University Press. 1989). a book to which 1 am deeply indebted throughout this paper. 10 Muhammad Fu'd (Abd al-Bqi, a/ /u/ain ai fiwiahras t/-a/az ai-i/ur'an at-kari/n (Beirut: Dar ihy^ al-turth al-^arab, n.d.; first published in Cairo, 1945).



for "veil", AZ/ab, occurs seven times. 11 One of these occurrences is in a verse, a/SAr(42):51, which speaks specifically of rcvc/at/on. Here, only two verses from the end of the sura, we read: It belongs not to any mortal fbcishar) that God should speak to him, except by revelation /j'/bl wahya/U, or from behind a veil taw m/n warZ hyabw). or that He should send a messenger and he reveal whatsoever He will, by His leave; surely He is All-high, All wise.12 The next verse continues, addressing Muhammad: "Even so We have revealed to thee tWcl'kic/AclA'Aa awAayn//ajkaJ. .. ."13 The point is clear: here at the conclusion of a/SA7/v7ii is affirmed that God has truly spoken to Muhammad, just as He has truly spoken to previous recipients of revelation. This affirmation artfully circles back to the sura's opening words, likewise addressed to Muhammad: "So reveals to thee fkac/AaAka yilAf //aykaj, and to those before thee, God, the All-mighty, the All-wise...." Still, the distinction in verse 51 between tArcc modes of God's speech to mortals by waAy, from behind a hijab, or through a messengeris more complex (and mysterious!) than necessary to establish the /nc/us/o. Very early in the Quranic exegetical tradition God's speaking "from behind a veil" was associated with the experience of Moses,14 who, although he did not see God (or any human or angelic intermediary), Avy/v/God's uttered, audible speech. 15 Did the anonymous author of TatA/ftA intend that his choice of ihtajaba to describe the Incarnation should be a whispered allusion to the mysterious hijb of a/SAr (42):51? Did he hear Quranic echoes in this word? We do not know. Later Melkite writers, however, /v/hear the echoes and intend the allusion. Take, for example, the ninth-century Melkite encyclopedia entitled a/Ja/??/1 wtJtlA a/f/nf/n, "The Compilation of the Aspects of the Faith." 16 Chapter Eighteen of this massive work its editor likes to
11 a/Aff(7)'A6, affsr' (17):45, J/a/ya/n (19):17. a/Ab/b (33):53. Sad (38):32, Fussi/a (41):5, and ai-SAr (42):51. The passive participant inah/bn also occurs once, a/A/uaffifin <83):15. 12 Translation of Arthur J. Arberry. The Koran fncr/y/et \/. The World's Classics 596 (London: Oxford University Press. 1964; first pubi, by Allen & Unwin in 1955). 504. In this paper the English translations of the Quran's meaning are taken or adapted from Arberry unless otherwise indicated. 13 Emphasis added. 14 at-Tabari traces this interpretation back to Ismail b. ''Abd al-Rahmn al-Sudd (d. 745). Abu Jacfar Muhammad ibn Jarir a\-Tabari, f//nf abbayan an anday at-ijur'an. 30 vols, in 12, 3rd printing (Cairo: Mustafa al-Bb al-Halab and sons. 1968) 25: 45. 15 So explained, for example, in Fakhr al-Dn al-Rzi, ai-'fafsr at-kabir. aw A/i/ah a/ghayb. 32 vols, in 16 (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-(ilmiyya. 1990) 27:160. 16 The chief witness for this work is London. British Library or 4950 (A. D. 877). ff. l r -197 v . Sidney H. Griffith is preparing an edition and English translation, and has published a number



call it the Summa TAeo/og/ae Arab/ca consists of responses to questions asked by a/muwaAA/cfun ("monotheists" - Muslims) and as/ibu / /t/mayn ("dualists" - Manichaeans). 17 In the course of Question #3, a request for a definition of a/muta'ann/s ("the Incarnate one") receives the following response: Say: "The Incarnation ta/ta'an/ws/xs the indwelling ffiu//j o God in the Virgin Mary, the Purified One, and His selection of human flesh fbasAarJ from her, and His self-veiling //'/?ttjabuhi/Jbeneath the human flesh. And that is because flesh has no access to the Speech of God f/aysa A'-AbasAarf f/ ka/mf f/bf sabffunj 'except by revelation or from behind a veil'."18 The author's assertion is straightforward: the Incarnation is the "self-veiling" of God and may be understood as an instance of a mode of God's speaking to mortals, "from behind a veil," provided for in a/SAilr/i (42):51. How shall we describe this use of the Qur'anic text? It is tempting to call a/Jm/0s use of a/SAtu (42):51 "prooftexting," although the term is inexact and somewhat pejorative. There is perhaps some justification for the label in the clumsy, unnuanced fashion in which the author makes the link between Christian confession and Quranic analysis: w-dhlika anna, "and that is because"! However, we should allow that the Christian apologist has not attempted to provide a detailed explanation of the Quranic verse, which retains something of its own mystery even while it is pointed to as a warrant for Christian belief. We shall have more to say about "prooftexting" later in this essay. In between the simple use of the word ihtajaba in TatA/ftA (which left us in doubt as to whether any Quranic echo was truly present) and the explicit citation and use of a/SAr (42):51 in a/Jni/\ we find texts where the Quranic echo is faint but persistent and not to be discounted. For example, sometime during the ninth century the author/compiler of the K/tb a/bu/An ("The Book of the Demonstration"), 19 one Peter of Bayt Ra's, 20 wrote:
of studies on the text. For a general orientation see his "The First Christian Summa Theologiae in Arabic: Christian Aaiam in Ninth-Century Palestine." in Michael Gervers and Ramzi Jibran Bikhazi, eds., Conversion and Con/nu/y: fndigenous Chiis/an Communities in /statu ic Lands. Eighth to Eighteenth Centuries. Papers in Mediaeval Studies 9 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1990), 15-31; as well as the study mentioned in the next note. 17 Sidney H. Griffith, "Islam and the Summa Theologiae Arabica; L'abf I. 264 A H . " Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and fs/am 13 (1990): 225-64. 18 London. British Library or. 4950. f. 114 r . 19 Pierre Cachia, ed., Futychius of Aie.xandria: Ehe Book of he Demonstration tA'itb a/burhnj. 2 vols., Corpus Scriptorum Christiancrum Orientalium 192. 209 ( - ar. 20. 22) (Louvain: Secrtariat du CorpusSCO, 1960-61). 20 On the question of authorship see Samir Khalil. "La littrature melkite sous les premiers abbasides." Oriena//a Chr/s/ana Eer/od/ca 56 (1990): 483-85.

BEYOND PROOFTEXTING We have found that the rational, speech-endowed spirit of human beings is finer ta/tafj 21 than all other immaterial t/at/f) created beings. Therefore it was the most appropriate of God's creatures to veil God fb/AJbf ffaAA. It was a veil for Him, and the "bloody" soul was a veil for it, and the material fgAa/fzj body was a veil for what was finer than itself.22


In this passage the echoes of a/SA7/a(42):5l, if any, are nearly lost in the complexities of Peter's anthropology. If we look back a few paragraphs, however, we discover that Peter's speech about the Incarnation in terms of veiling God may be contrasted with his earlier description of God's communicating His command tamr) and prohibition tnaAyJ through His prophets and apostles tanb/y/A/ w-EusuZ/AA by inspiration fb/\vaAy/njP Peter's use of Quranic pairscommand and prohibition, prophets and apostlesalerts us to the presence of the scriptural subtext. Then, the contrast of God's speech by inspiration (wahy) with God's taking a veil (hijb) may plausibly be takenif I may put it this wayas a veiled reference to a/-SA7/a (42):51. Echoes of a/SA/7/a (42):51 are yet more insistent in a passage from the anonymous Melkite tract A/asZ/ w-ajw/ba (ag//yya w-//A/yya ("Questions and Rational and Theological Responses"),24 which may well date to the ninth century.25 In response to a Muslim's question ("Is the pre-eternal substance f/aw/iaE) one of the hypostases?") the author writes: The pre-eternal substance is the essence tcibat) of God most high, unlike the substances created by Him, for He is their Creator. It is simple, unlike the simple substances created by His substance. It is not bounded, and not seen: God did not speak to Moses the Prophet except iffaj in a veil /AJab), as He came [to him] in the Bush, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Pillar of Cloud. And at the end of times He veiled Himself t tejaba/ through union with humanity fa/insn).
a/faf is used for comparison of substances on a scale reaching from the most spiritual, immaterial, and fine fiaifj to the most material and coarse (gha/t. 22 Cachia, De/nonsraion. 1: 69 (paragraph #109). 23 /bid. 1:60 (paragraph #96). 24 Sinaiar. 434 (A.D. 1138). ff. 171 r -181 v . The Rev. vId Salh Sa^d (Eid Salah) is preparing an edition for publication. 25 A dating of ca. A.D. 780 was proposed by Rachid Haddad. La rinite divine che tes hotogiens arabes 750 JOoOj. Beauchesne Religions 15 (Paris: Beauchesne, 1985). 38. Eid Salah more cautiously suggests a ninth-century date.


THE MUSLIM WORLD and became manifest to His creation in the most exalted creature: the human ta/dnsnj.2*

The conjunction of the words ilia and hijb in the context of God's speaking specifically to Moses is likely an allusion to the Quranic f// m/n ivaE/A//ab/n and its interpretation by the early muf'assA'n. In the examples from a/Bu/A/In and Jfasj/)\ist presented the echo of aASAtlE(42):51 is audible but faint. It is sufficiently audible that we may believe that its presence is deliberate and apologetically meant: the Christian authors intend to suggest that the verse provides a Quranic way of thinking about the Incarnation. It is faint enough, however, that their suggestion remains just that, a suggestion. There is no explicit citation to turn it into an assertion. The reader may miss or ignore it altogether. He may sense a slight "uplift" in the tone of sentences enriched by vocabulary of the sacred text of Islam. Or she may be moved to Biblically oriented but Qur'anically shaped meditation on the many and various ways in which God has spoken to humankind. By allowing the Qur ; anic verse to keep its distance, to be present as echo rather than placed on the stand as reluctant witness for Christian truth the apologists' suggestion remains tentative, a peaceful invitation to reflection. The purpose of this rather lengthy introduction has been, by looking at the use of a single Quranic verse in several Christian apologies of common provenance, to intimate something of the variety to be found in the early Arabic Christian literature's approach to the Qur^n-a variety that encompasses the strategy of clear citation and direct appeal as we// as that of quiet allusion and echo. In the section that follows I shall attempt to give a fuller picture of this variety with examples selected from eighthand early ninth-century Arabic Melkite apologetic texts, that is from some of the very oldest Arabic Christian theological compositions in our possession. Then we shall be in a position to think about the early Arabic Christian use of the Qur^n in the light of a typology created and used for the study of intertextual relationships in very different literatures. A p p r o a c h i n g t h e Quinan: a s a m p l i n g f r o m t h e earlies t Arabic Christian literature 1. Prooftexting

Many students of Christian-Muslim encounter will expect a "prooftexting" use of one another's scriptures to dominate in the earliest
Sinaiar. 434, f. 171v.



Arabic apologetic and controversial texts. This expectation, after all, corresponds to the extensive experience that many have had of present-day Christian and Muslim controversialists who point to texts of the others' scripture and offer their "real" explanation. Furthermore, there are a few ancient Arabic Christian controversial writings long and widely available in printed editions in which Quranic texts are regularly appropriated for apologetic purposes without the slightest attention to Quranic context, let alone to communal consensus of interpretation. The Arabic Christian A'Aabar BA/E aZ-EAZb ("The Story of Bhr the Monk"), for example, was published by Richard Gottheil nearly a century ago. 27 This popular story explains the appearance of Islam as an attempt at Christian missionary contextualization of the Gospel gone very seriously awry. Among its claims is that many key Qur ; anic texts were first written by the Christian monk Bhr and were originally intended to teach the Arabs Christian doctrine in a culturally appropriate way. Thus the basma/a b/s/n/ //A/ E-EaAmnf E-EaA/mZ was intended by the enculturation-practitioner Bhr to refer to the Holy Trinity! The /ay/atu Z-qacZ/Z(Sit/at aZ-Qac// (96))which "is better than a thousand months; in it the angels and the Spirit descend . . ,"28 is in fact the night of Jesus' birth! 29 These and many other examples, once read, are not quickly effaced from the memory. The sort of intertextual policy often labelled "prooftexting" does indeed play a major role in the Arabic Christian apologetic literature, especially in popular texts that, passed from Christian hand to Christian hand, assured readers of the truth of Christian faith and the certainty of its vindication in fair debate. 30 Indeed, this approach is evident in what may be the oldest extant Arabic Christian apology: the eighth-century papyrus fragments catalogued as HtZc/cZ/ic/'g, Papy/us ScAott-PeZnZiaEc/t 438, and published by Georg Graf in 1934.31 In his introduction to the edition Graf comments on the anonymous apologist's "arbitrary, tendentious interpre27 Richard A. Gottheil. "A Christian Bahira Legend." /fcischri //// A.ssrrioiogie und verwandte Cebiec\A (1899-1900): 252-68 and 15 (1900-1): 56-109 [Arabic text]: 17 (1903): 12566 [English translation]. For a recent study see Sidney H. Griffith, "Muhammad and the Monk Bahira: Reflections on a Syriac and Arabic Text from Early Abbasid Times.'' Oriens Christ/anus 79 (1995): 146-74. 28 ai-?adr 196): 3-4. 29 Arabic text of both examples in Gottheil. "Legend." 15 (1900-1): 59. 30 Watch for the appearance in Earo/e de f Or/en oi Sidney B. Griffith's study of the use of the Qur'n in the popular text claiming to be a transcript of Theodore Abu Qurra's debate with Muslim scholars in the presence of the caliph al-Ma'mn. 31 Georg Graf, "Christlich-arabische Texte: Zwei Disputationen zwischen Muslimen und Christen," Verffcnt/ichungen aus den bad/scben Eapyru* Samm/ungen (Heidelberg) 5 (1934): 1-34; text and translation of ESE 438 at 8-23. Grafs study of the manuscript led him to believe that it was a mid to later eighth-century copy of a text that may well have been written before A.D. 750.



tation" of Quranic texts which are cited, or mis-cited, without regard to context. 32 A fine example of this tendentious interpretation is a passage in which the Christian attempts to claim Quranic support for the belief that GodhasaSonO): [the Christian apologist] said to the Muslim: 1. "Your apostle said in Srat al Zukhruf \aAZumar (39):41: 'Had God desired to take to Him a son, He would have chosen whomever He willed of whom He had created. ' 2. "Also in your book he says well \a/-Ba/ad (90): 1-3]: 'No! I swear by this land, and thou art a lodger in this land; by the begetter, and that he begot. " . . . 3. "And in Siirata/N/sclJ [(4):1711: 'Glory be to Him that He should have a son!' 4. "And in S/7rat af-Baqa/a [(2):ll6l he said: 'God has taken to Him a son, but to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth.' 5. "And in SiJrat a/'Zt/Mrvt[{43):811 he said: 'If the All-merciful has a son, then I am the first to serve him."33 The citations are very close to being exact and yet they are constrained to say something quite foreign to the Quranic intention. The second citation, from Siirat aZ-BaZad, simply mis-takes the mysterious oath formula "by the begetter and that he begot" as applying to God. The other citations have been wrenched violently out of context. The conditional clauses of the first and fifth citations ("Had God desired to take to Him a son" and "If the All-merciful has a son") are taken to be assertions of a possibility, when in fact the Quinan responds to these clauses with, respectively, subAanaZju ("Glory be to Him!") and, more elaborately, subbana /abb/ ssamwt/ wa-Aa/'d/ Eabb/ A{a/sA/ (ammayasZ/una ("Glory be to the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the Lord of the Throne, above that they describe!"). In Quranic vocabulary, of course, sub/u/naAu is a powerful exclamation /'epud/at/ngany suggestion of SA/E/C. the reprehensible "association" of any other being in the sole divinity and lordship of the Creator. This same exclamation also figures in the third and fourth passage cited by the anonymous apologist. In the third, " SubA/naAu that He should have a son!" means that God is far too c.vaZtcdio have a son precisely the opposZte of what the Christian apologist claims. As for the fourth passage, from Si/Eat aZ-BaqaEat words have been dropped from the Quranic
32 33

/bid. 6. /bid. 10, 12.



original which runs: " TAey sa/d tAat God has taken to Him a son. SubAanaAuf Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth." By dropping iva-qZ("They said") and subAnaAu ("Glory be to Him!") the Christian apologist has transformed the divine repudiation of false belief into an affirmation of that belief! It is worth pausing over these particularly egregious examples of Christian misuse of Islamic scripture, in part to point the contrast between such violent misreadings and more thoughtful Christian suggestions of Quranic warrants for Christian beliefs. When the author of Chapter 18 of a/JmZrciied aZ-SA7/a (42):51 as providing grounds for the possibility of the Incarnation, he made a claim that many would strongly debate and deny; however, he did not do violence to the plain sense of the text, which Muslims and Christians could agree is about the ways in which God whom sight does not attain 34 has spoken to his human creatures. Shall we apply the somewhat pejorative term "prooftexting" to a/ J/nfs use of a/SAit/ (42):51"? I think it better that we find some other term for this kind of use, 35 and suggest that if we continue to use the term "prooftexting," we reserve it for the violent misreading of the sort we find in Papy//s ScAott-Be/nAa/dt 438. 2. Discovering a language of praise

For an entirely different Christian use of the Qur^n, let us return to Ff tatA/ftA AZZA a/wA/d. The eighth-century Christian apology opens as follows: 36

Praise be to God37 before whom there was nothing, and He was before all things; after whom there is nothing, and He is the Heir38 of all things, r and to Him is the destiny of all things;39 who has preserved in His knowledge the knowledge of all things r (and nothing but His knowledge is vast enough for this)40 in whose knowledge all things come to their end;

Cf. ai-An'm (6):103. See below, pp. 314ff. 36 What follows is the present writer's translation of his own edition of Sinaiar. 154, f. 99 r . See also Gibson, Arabic Version. 74*; Samir, "Apologie arabe," unpublished. 94-98; Samir, "Earliest Arab Apology," 66-70. 37 atbamdu/idtbi. cf. a/Eaiha WVl. 38 See especially affti/r (15):23, to be read in context; also ai nbiv(21): 89 and afQasas (28): 58. 39 wa-iiayAi masiru Auiiisiiay'in;cf. ai faida (5\% and a/Ari7r (24):42. Also see note 57 below. 40 /am yasf ifd/iiii/Aa itici (ifma/iu. For the paragraph thus far, cf. Ta f/ (20):98 (with many other parallels): innamifhuAumu thhu ffadhi i iblba ifi /uwa was fa Anita shay(in 9fmai.



THE MUSLIM WORLD and who has numbered all things41 in His knowledge

We ask you, 0 God, by your mercy and power, that you make us to be among those who know your Truth, r who follow your good pleasure, and who avoid your wrath 42 r w h o give praise using your most beautiful names 43 and who speak r using your most sublime similitudes 44 You are r t h e merciful one, the merciful Lord of mercy 45 r You sat upon the throne 46 were exalted above all creatures, and filled all things You give preference to what you will, but are not subject to others' preferring, 1 you establish your judgements, but are not subject to others' judging 47 r you have no need of us, 48 but we are in need of you You are near 49 to the one who draws near to you, r and responsive to the one who calls upon you 50 and prays to you For you, 0 God, are ] Lord of all things51 and God of all things, and r Creator of all things 52 Open our mouths, r loose our tongues 53
naabsa Auffa sbai in cf af finn (72) 28 \\a \aabja /idaAa \\a \aa /<m nabli sak fia afa cf 4f inn an (3) 162 43 n a \ usabbibu bi asma da f busna cf especially af Hadu (59) 24 also af A i<i (7) 180 af /srar(\7) 110 and fa Ha (20) 8 44 bi amihafiAa f ufi a If the author had been thinking of afffasb/ 159) 24 in the previous line, here he may have thought back to verse 21 For God s coining similitudes ambab see also afEad{\2>)\7 /biabim (14)25 af \ui (24)35 (the Verse of Light ) and / / -iiiAabu/ (29)43 The elative af uf\a is predicated of the word of God Aafnn tfabii in d/auba (9)40 45 a/ /abimu / /afimanu / labimu For the first title ai lafiunu cf a/bamu / tafumina in af Ac/af (7)151 ) usii (12)64 and 92 and af-inb/ia (21)83) or Abai/ti / / d/im/na in / / A fu mm in (23) 109 and 118 46 afa f a/sbi stanai la See especially ta fia (20) 5 where the subject of af i f aisbi stawa is ar rabmanu There are other parallels in our text to the paragraph in fa ff which extends through verse 8 For ,/// / aisbi s/masee also at if (7) 54 ; unus (10) 3 ///i'/</(13) 2 // Eu/cyan (25) 59 af Xi/da (32) 4 and // ffadid(57) 4 47 aqdi wa fa \ ut/da afaiAa cf af lfu mm (40) 20 48 astaijbm anna For God as the subject of isaibna see al taiffubun (64) 6 49 qa//bun See next note 50 mu/ibun fi man (faafa For this and the previous line cf af f> / (2) 186 and Hud (11)61 51 rabbu Aufb s bat m cf af An am (6) 164 52 Aha/c/u Aufb sbai m cf af -inam (6)102 afflict (13)16 ifEumu (39)62 and af Afu mm (40) 62 53 \\a nsfiiu afsmatana cf fa Ha (20) 27
42 41

BEYOND PROOFTEXTING soften our hearts, r and lay open our breasts54 r that we might praise your noble Name, which is exalted and great,55 blessed and holy! r There is no God before you and no God after you.56 r To you is the destiny [of all things],57 r and all things are in the disposal of your power.58


This magnificent rhymed tmusa//aKJ introduction which naturally suffers badly in translation is full of Qur ; anic allusions, of which I have highlighted a few by providing the transliterated Arabic text and references in the notes. Samir has stated that there is nothing explicitly Christian in this text, 59 a judgement with which I am in essential agreement. It does seem to me that the author has coined the three-fold title a/-/a/?//nu /-/aAmanu /-/aA/mu as a subtle introduction to the chapter on the triunity of God that immediately follows this introductory prayer. One might also note that there are certain usages for example, the predication of adjectives such as aA and {az/m\.o God's nan/c1 rather than to God himself that are more Biblical than Quranic. It is good to be reminded that the author is, after all, a Christian, and that he is at least as steeped in the language of the Bible as he is in that of the Qur'n. 60 But that having been said, the text remains accessible to Muslims as well as Christians. Furthermore, Samir notes that this accessibility is not the result of an author having superficially decked out a Christian text with Qur J an citations dug out of the eighth-century equivalent of a concordance. 61

ta s fu ab sudili ana cf fa Ha (20) 25 // asbibi smiAa fAa/imi f ab f as imi cf / / / / n/i (56) 74 and 96 d ffac/i/a (69) 52 and afAfa (87) 1 56 fa daba i/abfaAa u fa daba ba itaA See next note 57 dai Aa t masi/a This exact form of words is found in if f> n/u (2) 285 and af \fumabana (60) 4 For a parallel to the last three lines see / / Ifumm (40) 3 / / daba dfa buna /fax b/ f masi/u 58 u a an/a afa Aufb sbai in (/adi/un That God is afa Aaffi sf/ui m i/ad//un is stated 33 times in the Qur'an In -if fmian (3) 26 and af fabiim (66) 8 we find as in the Christian text second person address mnaAa afa Aufb sbai in (/ad//un Sometimes afa Aufb sbn m c/ad// is rhymed with i/faiAa I da ffabi I daibi ) f mas// af Eat/// (2) 284 85 if fm/an (3) 28 29 af ifa/da (5) 18 19. and af /a^babun (64) 1 3 The English translation of /// Aufb sbai m /acfuun is Kenneth Cragg s 59 Samir "Earliest Arab Apology " 69 60 Sr Mana Gallos annotations to her Italian translation of fa/bb/b are rich in Biblical references Maria Gallo trans EaA >////< a/n>/imn> Chin ba a/abo t /is// ma (ft ff I fff sc ( (>f<> Collana di Testi Patristici 116 (Rome Citta Nuova Editrice 1994) For the opening prayer see 47 51 61 Samir "Earliest Arab Apology " 69 70




Indeed, as my annotations to the text should make plain, it is not just a word or two here or there that can be shown to have come from the Qur^n; rather, the text simply fs profoundly Quranic, as we may sense when we read the first paragraph alongside T N7 (20):98, or when we compare the beautiful prayer beginning 'Open our mouths. . . " with Moses' prayer in 7a ZZ (20):25-35. In the introduction to Tat A/ftA^Ne are dealing with a Christian author who has absorbed the Quran's vocabulary and cadences of worship and praise, and without a hint of affectation can make them his own. 62 3. Recasting narrative sequences

Ff tafAZftA AZZctA aZ-w/ifct is by no means wooden in the use it makes of the Qur^n. Its magnificent opening prayer with all of its Quranic echoes is followed by a chapter on the triunity of God, for which the author seeks Qur'anic "proof texts": God's use of the pronoun "we" is appealed to as a proof of multiplicity within the divine unity, 63 while the fact that the Qur'n speaks of God's Word and the holy Spirit64 is taken as confirmation that the multiplicity is three-fold. In the chapter on redemption, however, this "prooftexting" use of the Qur'n gives way to something much more interesting: allusions to the Qur'anic stories of God's apostles and prophets. TafZ/ZftZi 's redemption narrative begins, naturally enough for a Christian text, with the story of creation and fall. 65 While what the author relates is fundamentally the BfAZZcaZ story with the intention of describing humanity's fall into sin and death, thus to establish humanity's need for redemption Quranic detail, especially from the story of Adam in aZACEZ'(7):19-25 or aZ-Baqa/a (2):35-36, is artfully woven into the narrative. 66 Phrase after phrase echoes the Qur'n: nafakZia f'/Ai nasamaia AAayf/ ("He breathed into him the breath of life");67 askanaAu A/annata ("He made him to dwell in the Garden"); 68 a/da //b/fsu/ an yukA/Z JaAum7 m/n Zca/matt ZZZiZ("[Ibls] desired to expel them from the favor of God");69 fa-zayyana ZaZ/uma ZbZ/su \\'a-gAa//aAuni7 ("Ibls made it fair to them

62 Samir, "Apologie arabe," 97: "A mon avis, nous n'avons pas affairs ici une exercice de style, mais une pense chrtienne qui s'est moul dans le langage coranique." 63 The author cites af-Bafad (90), af Qamar (54):11. and d-A/fa/n (6):94; Gibson. Arabic Version. 11*\ 64 The author (mis-)cites af-A'afi f (16):\02. 65 Gibson, Arabie Ic/siun. 78*-79*. or better Samir. "Earliest Arab Apology." 75-84. 66 Noted by Samir, "Earliest Arab Apology." 75-81. 67 Cf. na /Aba fibi min rb ib i in af Sa/da; (32): 9. 68 Cf. a/Bayara (2):35 and aiAiaf il)A9. 69 Cf. aAf/ra/afjurna minima A ana fib iva af-Bai/ara (2): 36.



and deluded them"); 70 badatZaAu/na sawltu/wma ("their shameful parts were revealed to them"). 71 The paragraph on creation and fall sets a pattern for the brief narratives that follow. The story of ZVoaZi is the first to be told. 72 While most of the detail is Biblical there is an emphasis on Noah's preaching activity Zrna mlAun yafeu/wm \va-yad(7fZ7m ZZa -ZZaZn ("Noah was exhorting them and calling them to God")a prominent feature of the Quranic story, in which Noah is an apostle of God rejected by his people. 73 Next, Abraham is mentioned in passing as an example of the "friends of God74 and they were few in their days [who] were warning [Satan-enslaved humanity] and calling them to God; but they met with severe tribulation and open hostility from them, from their kinfolk and others"75a fair summary of the Quranic story of Abraham. 76 The author's summary of the story of Lot77 is faithful to the Bible, although the vocabularyd/faA/sA ("indecency, abomination") 78 and a/kAab/tA ("wickedness")79 to describe the acts of the people of Sodom; mata/ (the "rain" sent down upon the city),80 na/fcf ("he rescued") for God's deliverance of Lot and his daughters81 overlaps with that of the Quran's Lot-narratives. Furthermore, the apologist brings the paragraph to a close with a near-citation from the Qur'n* //na Z/7Ad ma'a ZZadZ/fnayattaqnaAu "truly God is with those who fear Him "82 The paragraphs about Moses that immediately follow deserve to be presented in full:83
Then Israel and his children entered Egypt seventy-five souls, men, women, and children And God caused them to multiply and grow until they reached six hundred thousand and more

Cf afff/// (15) 39 Satan is frequently the subject of sa\ ana af An am (6) 43 af Anaf (8) 48, af/Vabf (16) 63 af Na/nf (27) 24 and af Aid ibu (29) 38 With regard to nba/ia Cf daffab urna b/ gbu/ il/ m in af -i /a/ il) 22 71 An exact citation from a/A /a (7) 22 72 Gibson Arab/c lc/s/un 79* 73 See (among several examples) af A /a (7) 59 64 or all of >//a \ub (71) 74 as//\aa ffab/ Abraham s Qur^amc title of course is Abafdf-lffab/ the friend" [of God] afN/sa (4) 125 75 Gibson A/ab/i Ic/s/o/i 80* 76 See for example ,// Anb/ia (21) 51 70 or af \//a (37) 83 98 77 Gibson A/ab/i lc/s/un 80* 78 /abisba is used in the Lot narrative in af A I<I (7) 80 at (Jasas (28) 54 and af -nAabt (29) 28 79 The plural atA baba /fi is used in the Lot narrative in af Anb/ia (21) 74 80 Cf afA/a/(l)S4 afSfnlaia (26)173 af Aa/nf [21\ 58 and also af fu/t/an (25) 40 81 The second and fourth forms of the verbal root ui/u t are a constant refrain in the Qur'n s stones of the apostles With regard to Lot affi/// (15) 59 ,// -inbna (21) 71 and 74 afSbua/a (26) 169-70. at AnAabt7 (29) 32 33 afX///a (37) 134 and at (Jama/ (54) 34 (second form) and afA/af{l) 83 and af (Jasas (28) 53 (fourth form) 82 Cf //ma ftaha ma a f maa(//na in at Eat/a/a (2) 194 and at/auba (9) 36 and 123 83 For the following see Gibson 4/abn \t/s/on 80*



THE MUSLIM WORLD There arose over Egypt another pharaoh, who had not known Joseph, He scattered them and put them to harsh toil. He wished to destroy the children of Israel, and made Afmse/f a god.%A And he set them to work in difficult building projects, oppressed them with the harshest oppression, and murdered their sons. But God saved Moses, and the daughter of Pharaoh raised him. The Children of Israel besought God to save them from the oppression they were experiencing from the hand of Pharaoh. And God responded to them and acquainted them with His mercy. And Moses departed Egypt in flight, and God drove him until he reached Mount Sinai. And God spoke to A/n d//ect/y%s "from tAe jfAt s/de at tAe mount, "8e and said to him: "The lamentations of the Children of Israel have arisen to me, and the oppression with which Pharaoh and his folk have oppressed them. " And God sent him to Pharaoh, and supported him with signs [and] great wonders and mighty power Then God split the sea for the Children of Israel, and caused them to pass through the midst of it, but he drowned Pharaoh and his host Aicf Goct was A/gAt\ 'Lod of Venganee "8?

In her translation of this passage, Sr. Maria Gallo puts the many B/bAca/citations or near-citations into italics. 8 8 I have adopted her idea, but ; for the Qur anic allusions: the italicized phrases help us to see how skilfully the author has woven Q u r a n i c material into his prcis of Exodus 114, bringing the whole to a suitable conclusion with a Q u r a n i c affirmation of God's avenging power. It is time to pause and reflect on the author's strategy. It is clear that he has selected a sequence of figures common to the Bible and to the Q u r ^ n Adam, Noah, (Abraham,) Lot, Moses and while remaining faithful to the Bible has wove n Qur ; anic detail and vocabulary into his narrative. Furthermore, w e note that the sequence is very profoundly a Q u r a n i c sequence: the stories of Noah, Lot, and Moses figure prominently in that genre of Qur'anic narrative that Montgomery Watt has labelled "punishmen t story," in which the apostle t/at>i7/f is sent to w a r n his people and call them to the worship of the true God. However, the people refuse the message and reject the apostle. God then punishes the unbelievers, but the apostle (and those with him) are saved. 8 9 In effect,
84 This is an important feature of the Qur'n s presentation of Pharaoh af Sbua/a (26) 29 a/Qasas (28) 38, and atNa//at (79) 24 85 fa-Aatfamaha ffabu aAbman cf at-N/sa (4) 164 86 mm /an/b/ -t?// f a) mam exactly as found in \fa/\a/n (19) 52 87 iva Aana ffabu sbadidan dbtl nu/amm cf \\a mna ftafia a/i/un cttnl in/am m in Af fmran (3) 4, af 1 faida (5) 95. fb/abim (14) 47 and af/urna/ (39) 37 88 Gallo, Omef/a 71 72 89 W Montgomery Watt, Ecff s /njodui/o/i o be Qu/ an Islamic Surveys 8 (Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press 1970). 127-35 See also Willem A Bijlefeld. "A Prophet and More than a Prophet?" Ebe Jfusf/m flu/fd 59 (1969) 1-28



the Christian apologist has produced a kind of Christian caique on aA A^a/'(7)90 or ZZ7d(\\) or one of the other suras in which the punishment stories play a dominant role. 91 The decisive difference between the Quranic punishment-story sequences and TatZ/ZZtA's Christian caique is their teZos. As ZZ7d (11):120 states plainly, the Quranic sequences are related Zn ofdef to st/cngtAen Mi/Aammad's AeaEt: the unbelief he encounters is by no means unprecedented, and he may trust in God for safety and vindication. 92 The author of TatZ/ZftZi, however, uses the sequence for his own apologetic purpose: to esfabZZsZi fZ/e CA'tcnt to wZi/'cA f'aZZcn AimankZndZs undo/' Satan's soveEeZgnty f/om WZZCZ ?uman apostZcs and p/opActs a/v incapaAZe of savZng tAcm. Even the Children of Israel miraculously delivered from Pharaoh and his hosts fell to worshipping the golden calf!93 But if the Children of Israel, and indeed, all of humanity have fallen under Satan's sway, 94 God did not desire this for his creation, and God is "the most merciful of those who show mercy" 9 5 to his creation, and the one most fit to undertake their salvation 96 from the sedition 97 and misguidance 98 of Ibls. God Z/ZmscZf is "the one most fit to undertake" the salvation of humankind. The author of Zaf/dffA has adapted the Qur'anic sequences of punishment stories by changing the accent, which no longer falls on the fact that the apostles were v/'ndZcatcd in the face of stubborn unbelief, but rather on the fact that human apostles did not effectively ovc/vome that resistance. The Christian apologist recasts the Qur ; anic sequences as a narrative of Auman incapacity to reform humankind in order to prepare the reader to hear of a new initiative by the One who "has all things in the disposal of his power." 99

90 af-A/af presents the stones of Adam Noah. Lot, and Moses m that order The Christian apologist, of course, does not mention the stories of non-Biblical apostles (Hud, Slih, Shu^ayb) that figure in the Quranic sequences 91 E g . aflfa mmn (23). afSbua/a (26) af Vandal) at 4//Aabt/ (29) and af\/a (37) 92 See Bijlefeld. "ProphetV 19-20 93 Gibson, A/ab/i lr/smn 81* 94 For the following paragraph see /but 81*-82* 95 a/fiama /-/ab/m/na See note 45 above 96 Abafasabum wa-fu/i/anabum The words are synonyms, u// being used in its original Syriac sense The same sense may underlie some of its uses in the Qur'n see af-Eac/a/a (2) 185 and afA/if af {S) 4\ 97 /////<-/ cf af Ha//[22) 53 98 datata cf af/V/sa (4) 60 99 See note 58 above

312 4. Listening to


Within a generation or so of the composition of TatA/ftA, another Melkite theologian pondered the question of how to present plausible arguments for the Incarnation in a rapidly Arabicizing and Islamicizing milieu. This was Theodore Abu Qurra, sometime monk of the Zau/a of Mar Saba and bishop of Harrn, and the first writer of Arabic theological literature for whom we have a name. 100 Among his numerous Arabic apologetic works is a short treatise that might be entitled "On the Necessity of Redemption/ 1 0 1 In it, Abu Qurra begins immediately with a Qur^anically-colored statement that he believes a Muslim reader should be willing to accept: "God sent down fanzaZai the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, and in it enjoined statutes upon the people, and imposed chastisements upon the one who violates them." 102 Abu Qurra then radicalizes these statements: God's statutes demand Wit pe/Zccf/on o human obedience and love (Deuteronomy 6.5!), and any shortfall in this loving obedience is subject to punishment. There is no redress "no, not for a twinkling of an eye of passing time" for the one who fails to exert one's cnt/'rc capacity in the obedience of God. 103 Abu Qurra then anticipates an objection: "I am able to throw off the chastisement for my transgression through repentance."104 He responds that even in the unlikely case that the penitent achieved perfect obedience in the moment of repentance, to/mcEsins would still demand punishment: [T]here is no way for you to blot out any of your former sin, not even an atom's measure /wadaw mft/da/a cfAaratin/\ Thus it is inevitable that the punishment which overtakes you because of what your hands have forwarded /bf-ma t/ddamat yadka/ will be fixed upon you. You will not be able to remove it by any means!105 Let us stop to ponder the two lines for which the transliterated Arabic text has been provided. In the first, it is undoubtedly anachronistic to have translated dAa/raas "atom," although the classical lexicographers are agreed that it represents something exceedingly tiny, whether a small ant or an ant's grub or egg, or a tiny particle such as a mote in a ray of sunlight or a

100 p o r a n excellent recent summary of what is known about Abu Qurra , see Sidney Griffith. "Reflections on the Biography of Theodore Abu Qurrah." Earufe de i'Orien 18 (1993): 143-70. 101 Constantin Basha, ed.. fe.s <eu\rt\s arabe* de fboifoie About ara. ei/ue de //aran (Beirut: 1904). 83-91. 102 /bid. 83. 103 /bid 104 /bid 105 /bid. 84.



single speck of gold dust. 1 0 6 The significance of Abu Qurra's use of the w o r d is that his expression m/d/7E dAa/va "the measure of a dZia/ra? recalls the Q u r a n ' s mZtAgZdZ?a//a "the weight of a dZia/za. " 1 0 7 Where the context of the expression is a discussion of sin, one does not have to be a AfZz to hear an echo of Si7/af Z/ZzaZ (99): When the earth is convulsed with her [final] earthquake and earth brings forth her burdens, and humankind says, 'What ails her?' on that Day she shall relate her chronicles as your Lord inspires her. On that Day humans shall come forth in scattered groups to be shown their works: whoever has done an atom's weight of good shall see it. and whoever has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it 108 Other texts echoed by Abu Qurra's use of /n/c/c/c7/ dAa//a include Saba (34):3 or its parallel J?/////s (101:61. The former runs as follows: The unbelievers say: The Hour will never come to us' Say: Indeed, by my Lord, Knower of the Unseen, it shall come to you! In the heavens and the earth not a/ ato/?? s wegAt esca/*>es / nor smaller than that, nor greater but it is [recorded] in a Book that makes manifest Ab Qurra has no need to belabor his point that former sin is not readily blotted out. For those with ears to hear them, the Q u r a n i c echoes are powerful and authoritative reminders that a//\s known, af/is recorded, and that a terrible Day and Hour is coming w h e n one shall be confronted with aZZone's deeds. For those with ears to hear, the echoes a/so carry r e m i n d e r s of the fate of evil-doers. Sabd (34):3 is the first verse in a paragraph that w a r n s , in verse 5, that those w h o strive against God's signs shall suffer "a torm e n t of painful p u n i s h m e n t . " Similarly, }'i7/)us (10)61 a close parallel to Saba (34):3 needs to be considered in its context. Memory leads to verse 52: "Then shall it be said to those w h o did evil: T a s t e the torment of eternity!'" If the echoes of these terrible warnings are too distant for all to hear, Ab Qurra makes a second allusion to the Qur'n which amplifies them: "Thus it is inevitable that the punishment which overtakes you 'because of w h a t your h a n d s have forwarded' will be fixed upon you!" b/-n?d
106 Edward William Lane -in -ii ibii En^f/sb fi \/n>n 8 vols (Beirut Librairie du Liban 1980, first pubi in Edinburgh 1863) 957 (vol 3) col 2 107 The expression occurs six times ,// \ / w (4) 40 ) //////> (10) 61 \/ba (34) 3 and 22 and S/f/af (99) 7 and 8 108 The translations in this section are mine although I have consulted and am indebted to those of Arberry and Cragg



gaddamat yadakais an exact citation from aZ-ZZajj (22):9-10, w h e r e it is said of one w h o opposes the truth: For him in this world there is shame, and on the Day of Resurrection we shall make him taste the torment of the burning. 'That is because of wAatyour Aands Aave forwarded, and because God is not unjust to his servants. ' Close parallels are found in Z Annan (3):181-82, aZ-AnfZ (9):50-51, and aZ'ZVaba^(78):40. This last is the concluding words of a sura that presents a stunning description of the Day, and deserves separate citation: Lo, we have warned you of torment drawn nigh, a Day when one shall behold wAat one's bands Aave fonvardect, and the unbeliever shall say, 'Would that I were dust!' Abu Qurra clearly means for his reader to feel terror at the consequences of sin but does not once use words such as " Hell", " Fire"," burning", or even (until later in the treatise) "torment". He does not need to. With a few well-chosen words his text has set off sympathetic resonances in n u m e r o u s Qur'anic texts that express far more effectively than Abu Qurr a could terrible threats of everlasting punishment for evildoers.

Exploiting a typology
Toward the end of his seminal study FcAocs of' Sc/fpturc Zn i Ac LetteES of Pau/ Richard B. Hays attempts to "render a synoptic characterization of the overall relation between Scripture and Paul's reading of it" by adapting Thomas M. Greene's analysis (in ZAc AZyAt Zn T/oy: ZmZtafZon and DZscovc/y Zn ftcna/'ssancc Z'ocf/y109) of the ways in which Renaissance poets recapitulated classical models. 1 1 0 Greene had summarized his findings under four headings: (a) "sacramental" or "reproductive" imitation, in which the subtext is treated as a model to be carefully imitated. (b) "eclectic" or "exploitative" imitation, in which the author makes no particular commitment to the subtexts, but treats them as repositories of language and symbols from which to draw.

109 Thomas M. Greene, Ebe Ligia in Eroe: //niaion and Discovery (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982). 110 Hays, Ecfwes of Scripture. 173-78.

in Eena/s.sance




(c) "heuristic" imitation, in which the poem "singles out one text as its putative genesis and. .. defines itself through its rewriting, its 'modernizing,' its aggiornamento of that text/ 111 (d) "dialectical" imitation, in which there is a real encounter and dialogue between the mundus signi/ica/is of the poem and that of the subtext.112 As Hays points out, the variable in this spectrum of possibilities is "the writer's stance toward the past expressed in the symbolic world of the subtext/' 113 Does the writer return to the symbolic world of the subtext? Ox pick and cAoosc irom that world? Does the writer update the subtext? Or b/Zng Zt Zu to a conve/safZonxn which it may speak freely? Hays suggests that Greene's analysis may be fruitfully applied to any literature which is involved in intertextual reflection, and in fact applies it to the use of scripture in the letters of St. Paul.114 It seems to me that these categories are indeed useful for thinking about the use of the Qur ; an in the early Arabic Christian apologies, or, for that matter, the use of the Bible in the early Islamic "refutation of the Christians" literature. Of course, there will be differences between the intertextual strategies found in these literatures and those found in the Renaissance poets (analyzed by Greene) or in the writings of Paul (analyzed by Hays). For the Renaissance poets, and for Paul, their subtexts were in some sense aufZ)o/ZtatZvc. The humanist writers regarded their classical subtexts with the profoundest admiration and respect; Paul regarded his subtext as sacred scripture. For Christian and Muslim controversialists and apologists, however, the other's scripture not only lacked authority but was profoundly questionable at best, a mixture of truth and misinterpretation, corruption, and error. We shall need to keep this difference in mind as we attempt to apply the analysis of Greene (and Hays) to a very different set of texts. Let us return to Greene's categories. Do we find examples of "sacramental" or "reproductive" imitation in Arabic Christian texts? I do not think it is far-fetched to speak of a "reproductive" approach to the Qur ; an in a text such as the introduction to TatA/ftA, presented earlier. 115 It may be worth nothing that Samir, who is undertaking the new edition of TatA/ftA, unaffectedly labels this introduction a fat/'Aa. "like any t'at/Aa, of an Arabic work," 116 but also, to a certain extent, like tAe Fat/Aa. Some Christian apologists found within the Qur'n a world of prayer and praise which they could happily visit, even if they would not settle there permanently.
111 112 113 114 115 116

Greene, f/gf/ in Eroy. 41, cited in Hays. Ecboes of Scr//Vure. 173. Hays, Echoes of Scripure. 173-74. fb/d. 174. fb/d See above, pp. 305ff. Samir. "Earliest Arab Apology." 66.



We recall that "eclectic" or "exploitative" imitation refers to the intertextual approach of a poem that alludes to a variety of texts without binding itself to them. As Hays appropriates this category it may cover cases where an author has "borrowed" the language of scripture "to lend rhetorical force to his own discourse, with minimal attention to the integrity of the semeiotic universe of the precursor." 117 Perhaps we may see such benignly "exploitative" imitation in 7atA/ffA's use of near-Quranic phrases"truly God is with those who fear Him" or "God was Mighty, Lord of Vengeance" to round off paragraphs. 118 There is little indication that the Christian apologist was paying any particular attention to the original context of these phrases; he simply found them to be appropriate antiphons to the narratives, respectively, of the rescue of Lot and his daughters, and the deliverance of Moses and the Children of Israel at the sea.119 However, the category of "exploitative" imitation may also include instances where the subtext has undergone a significant resignification. For a Biblical example, one may think of the citation of Hosea 11.1b in Matthew 2.15b: "Out of Egypt have I called my son."120 Here Hosea's reference to the Exodus is reinterpreted as applicable to the return of the holy family after their flight into Egypt. The Islamic "refutation of the Christians" literature provides many examples of such resignification. In a recent article about the use of the Bible in early Islamic controversial literature, 121 David Thomas has pointed to the use made by kAl b. Rabbn al-Tabar (ca. 790ca. 860) of Psalm 48.1-2, which \1 read something as follows: Great is our Lord, and he is greatly maA/nifd("praised"); and in the city of our God and in his mountain there is a holy one and a muAannad("praised one"); and the joy hath come to the whole earth.122

1.7 Hays, Echoes of Sc///>u/c 175 Hays points to Paul's use of Psalm 19 4 in Romans 10 18 as a good example. 1.8 See above, pp. 309-10 1.9 We might note, however, that fabfib s description of God as ifbil' //n/a/n/n in the context of the story of Moses does parallel the Quran's use of the expression in the story of Abraham at fbrhim (14):47. 120 See, for example, Craig A Evans. "The Function of the Old Testament m the New." in Scot McKnight, ed . /n/oduc/ng New Eesa/nen( //ie//vea/on (Grand Rapids. Michigan Baker Book House. 1989). 174- 76. Hays comments that Matthews Gospel is "the clearest instance in the New Testament of a text whose hermeneutical strategy in relation to Israels Scripture is almost unrelievedly exploitative, in Greene's sense" (Hays. Echoes of Scripture. 175) 121 David Thomas, "The Bible in Early Muslim Anti-Christian Polemic." A///// a/nt (fuisian A/i/s/i/n Ecfaions7 (1996): 29-38. 122 Thomas's translation in /b/d 31-32. For the text of ^Ah's '/ab afit/n u Aditi fa see ^dil Nuwayhid. ed.. Ab ibn Eabfam aftabaii aAD/ tta Ada ufa // i/bba nubuuuat af-nabi Afuha/nmad 3rd printing (Beirut: Dar al-fq al-jadda. 1979)



For (1, the verses are a clear prediction of the coming of the Prophet of Islam. The Arabic Christian literature provides similar examples of an "exploitative" use of the Q u r a n i c subtext; and, as we have seen, the resignification of Quranic verses can be very arbitrary. When the author of the ancient controversial text preserved in Papy/ns ScAott Z?c/nZ/aEdt 438 cited aZ ZumaE (39):4, aAZVZs7M):\7\, aZ-aga/a (2):116, and aAZukA/'uA (43):81, he paid no attention to the original context of the Quranic verses; or, if he did notice their context, that did not prevent him from tearing them violently out of that context in order to make them say the opposite of what all Muslims have understood them to say!123 It is worth noting that this sort of violently arbitrary "prooftexting" probably stretches the category of "exploitative" imitation beyond its scope in the work of Greene or Hays. Here the text does not reverence the subtext, but merely attempts, by force, to take it captive. As for interreligious "heuristic" imitation, Thomas gives us an excellent example from the early Islamic controversial literature: aZ-ZtaddKaZt-nas/ ("The Refutation of the Christians"} of al-Qsim b. Ibrahim (785-860), which includes a rhymed, carefully edited Arabic reworking of the first eight chapters of Matthew's Gospel.124 Al-Qsim treats his original with considerable respect, and yet "Islamicizes" the text by "toning down excessive [Christian] claims and removing what cannot be modified."125 Matthew's gospel is brought "up to date" in the light of the Quranic revelation. Perhaps we find something similar in the soteriological chapter of TatAA/A,126 where we have suggested that, after a presentation of the story of Adam, the author has imitated typical Qur ; anic sequences of "punishment stories." (S7/a aZ-A</'7/'(7)t where such a sequence is prefaced with the story of Adam, provides the closest model. ) But the Christian apologist reworks this sequence, reading the Qur'n as t it were a preMuhammadan, indeed, pre-Easter text. The writer finds the telos of the sequence of apostle-stories not in the (seventh-century) figure of Muhammad, but rather in the (first-century) figure of Christ, understood to be the incarnate Word of God who accomplished what prophets and apostles could not. The Qur'anic subtext is "updated" by identifying in it trajectories which reach their goal only when pulled into a Christian gravitational field.

See above, pp. 304-5. Thomas. "Bible." 32-36. For the text of the Eadd see: I. Di Matteo. "Confutazione contro i cristiani dello Zaydita al-Qsim b. Ibrahim." Eivisa dc'ii Sud 0/ienaii 9 (1921-22): 301-64. 125 Thomas. "Bible." 36. 126 See above, pp. 308-11.




The use of aZ-SZ// (42):51 that we encountered in Chapter 18 of aZ/amZCl27 may provide another example of a heuristic reading of the Quranic subtext. I suggested earlier that the allusion should not be dismissed as "prooftexting" that is, aZ-/amZs reading of aZ-SZu7/a (42):51 is not merely (and violently) "exploitative." I prefer to see aZ-JmZcas "updating" aZ-SAi7/ (42):51 although in the anachronistic "christotelic" sense just described by taking God's speaking "from behind a veil" to refer not only to God's speech to AZoses (as agreed in the classical Islamic exegetical tradition) but also to God's speech to humankind through CZuZsf. It is the fourth category, "dialectical" imitation, that Hays finds most helpful for understanding the hermeneutical strategy of Paul. The apostle to the Gentiles does not read scripture as does (for example) the author of the letter to the Hebrews, with a heuristic "then/now," "type/fulfillment" scheme in mind. Rather, he allows scripture to speak with its own voice and even to contend against his appropriation of it.128 Once again we need to stretch the category in order to use it for the writings of Christian apologists citing a subtext about which they had profound reservations: no medieval Christian apologist would allow the Qur ; an entire freedom to speak! Notwithstanding, we may perhaps see something approaching a "dialectical" approach to the Quranic subtext when Christian writers deal with it allusively, allowing it to speak with some freedom from afar rather than constraining or censoring its speech at close range. We have seen something like this in the allusions of aZ-u/Zn7n and A/asZZ to aZ-SA7/a (42):51.129 And Theodore Ab Qurra's text "On the Necessity of Redemption" supplies us with a splendid example: 130 Ab Qurra, arguing that "repentance" is not sufficient to efface past sins, makes his case not with paragraph upon paragraph of supporting argument, but rather with a pair of extremely brief (near-) Quranic expressions: m/'qdr dAa/ra and bZ-m gaddamatyadctka. Suddenly (for the competent reader) the room is filled with echoes of the Quran's vivid and terrifying affirmations of the omniscience of God, of the coming Day when one shall be confronted with all one's deeds, and of the "torment of the burning" for those who have done evil. Ab Qurra's allusive "distancing" of the Qur ; anic subtext gives it permission to speak and it does so, with great eloquence and power for those qualified to hear.


See above, pp. 299-300. 128 Hays. Echoes of Scripu/e. 176-77 (although this point is the burden of the entire book). 129 See above, pp. 300-2. 130 See above, pp. 312ff.



Conclusion: beyond prooftexting

One of the surprises of the earliest Arabic Christian literature is that its treatment of the Qur}an is far more varied, subtle, and interesting than can be summed up under a heading such as "prooftexting." Although we must concede that an arbitrary and even violent "exploitative" intertextual strategy characterizes the oldest Arabic Christian apologetic text in our possession (Papy/'us ScAoffPcZZia/d 438) and many other texts since then! we have discovered the existence of very different approaches, ones that move in the direction of greater appreciation of and respect for the language, narratives, and teachings of the Qur ; an. Already in the second Islamic century, 131 arabophone Christians were learning to pray using Quranic turns of phrase; to relate God's dealing with humankind in narrative with Qur ; anic accents; and to construct theological arguments leaving spaces to be filled with Qur'anic echoes. In its use of the Qur ; an, the earliest Arabic Christian literature pointed the way beyond prooftexting surely one of this literature's many gifts to contemporary ChristianMuslim dialogue. LutAeE SemZna/y St. Pai// AZZm/esofa N. SWANSON


131 This is, of course, a somewhat approximate statement. We do not know, for example, when Theodore Ab Qurra (who lived for more than a decade into the bird century A.H.) wrote his treatise "On the Necessity of Redemption."

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